THE BIG UGLY — Trump gears up for primary war
Very interesting piece from Politico late yesterday.
There’s no longer a chief of staff to screen his calls, so an unspoken rule has governed Donald Trump’s calendar since he left Washington last month: To sit down with the former president, you must belong to his posh Palm Beach club or know how to contact him directly.
But even that won’t always do it. For weeks now, Trump has rejected meetings with everyone from former South Carolina governor and 2024 hopeful Nikki Haley to House and Senate GOP candidates vying for his ear — preferring to spend his days leisurely calling friends, binging cable news, golfing with a rotating cast of partners and basking in standing ovations whenever he arrives for dinner on Mar-a-Lago’s outdoor patio.
One person close to the ex-president said he’s become “unreachable” to anyone outside his limited circle of loyal aides, longtime friends and die-hard political allies.
That’s about to change.
According to three people familiar with the planning, Trump will soon begin vetting candidates at Mar-a-Lago who are eager to fulfill his promise to exact vengeance upon incumbent Republicans who’ve scorned him, and to ensure every open GOP seat in the 2022 midterms has a MAGA-approved contender vying for it.
Trump already has received dozens of requests from prospective candidates seeking to introduce themselves and nab his endorsement, and formal meetings with them could begin as early as March. Now that Trump has survived his second Senate impeachment trial, he has shifted his focus to post-presidential activism — a venture mostly bankrolled by his new leadership PAC, Save America, which had $31 million in its coffers at the start of this month.
Earlier this week, Trump met with his former campaign manager Brad Parscale to discuss online fundraising components to support his efforts and how he can utilize social media despite his ban from websites like Twitter. Trump also met with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and his eldest son Don Jr. earlier this week.
“We are in the process of putting together a more formal schedule for candidates who want to come get his endorsement,” said senior Trump adviser Jason Miller, noting that Trump’s meetings so far have been limited to golf friends, Mar-a-Lago members and “folks with the ability to contact him themselves.”
The planning for Trump’s coming revenge tour comes as other top Republicans try to cajole him into working with the party’s apparatus ahead of next year’s midterm elections, rather than recruiting rival candidates. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is expected to meet with Trump over the weekend to discuss his upcoming plans, including the former president’s desire to push for voter reforms at a time when the topic of election integrity has created a major split among elected Republicans.
Others in Trump’s orbit have encouraged him to wait and see if Republicans who’ve crossed him and are up for reelection next fall, such as Govs. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Brian Kemp of Georgia, attempt a peace offering before he launches a serious search for possible primary challengers.
“I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been. I don’t want to eat our own,” Graham told Fox News.
In the statement, Trump vowed to recruit insurgent candidates “who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America first” wherever he feels such challenges are necessary. The former president has already set his sights on ousting Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, and Fred Upton of Michigan, if he forgoes retirement.
Both Cheney and Upton voted to impeach Trump.
Rep. Peter Meijer, a second Michigan congressman who voted for impeachment, already faces a primary challenger from an Afghanistan veteran and self-declared Trump supporter.
Trump still speaks weekly with his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and continues to seek counsel from a host of former aides and political confidants whose appetites for revenge and disdain for the political establishment mirror his own. Recently, Trump hosted former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and ex-campaign advisers Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie for dinner, all of whom remain influential fixtures within the MAGA movement.
“If you’re Trump, you don’t gotta play nice with these people anymore. You don’t have to do the whole fake political thing where you pretend to like people you don’t actually like,” said a person close to the president, suggesting that Trump is unlikely to seek feedback from Republicans who disagree with his approach.
“A Republican Party that seeks to erase President Trump and fails to understand his appeal to working class voters is destined to lose elections in 2022, 2024 and beyond,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, tweeted on Wednesday.
So far, Trump’s backing has gone to two of his most loyal allies, Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, who received a recorded endorsement for her re-election bid, and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a candidate for Arkansas governor who was given a glowing stamp of approval via his Save America PAC.
In the meantime, Trump has appeared to enjoy transitioning into his post-presidency life. He has revelled in the news splash his rare statements have made, according to aides, but is otherwise spending his days like many of his wealthy Palm Beach peers: catching up on the news, making calls, taking leisurely meals and hitting the golf course with friends.
“He’s really doing what all the other guys his age with that kind of net worth do,” said one Florida Republican operative close to the Trump family. Trump was spotted on his golf course Wednesday with Kid Rock.